Thinking Anglicans

Asylum seeker “conveyor belt” baptism claims refuted

The Archdeacon of Auckland, Rick Simpson, gave written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, which provides the detailed facts concerning baptisms of refugees or asylum seekers in Darlington.

Read his evidence in full here (dated 5 April).

The Church Times reports on this: Archdeacon of Auckland rejects claims of ‘conveyor-belt’ conversions 

…In Febuary, the Home Affairs Committee heard evidence from a former Church of England priest, the Revd Matthew Firth, who repeated claims that he had made in the media about witnessing a “conveyor belt” of cases, in which asylum-seekers were being baptised so that they could say that they risked persecution if deported (News, 16 February).

Mr Firth was Priest-in-Charge of St Cuthbert’s, Darlington, between 2018 and 2020, before leaving the C of E to become a minister in the Free Church of England.

Giving evidence to the committee, he said that he had been approached every two to three weeks by groups of six or seven asylum-seekers who wanted to be baptised, but had turned them down, after which they did not attend church again…

On Thursday 25 April, Mr Firth issued this statement on Twitter in rebuttal.

The original Daily Telegraph reports, dated 8 February, in which Mr Firth first made his claims are here (£):  

The transcript of the committee hearing on 12 March can be found here.

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Aljbri
Aljbri
19 days ago

Not quite sure why this has not provoked comment, tho I suppose it might be pointless. But could I suggest that ‘refute’ is not quite right. ‘Challenge’ might be more accurate. This is clearly difficult territory. Avoiding tabloid certainties might be a good idea.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Aljbri
18 days ago

Not giving credence to politically motivated fictions would be even better.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
18 days ago

Matthew Firth published a statement on Twitter claiming, among other things, that Adn Simpson had been a ‘junior colleague’ of his. Mr Simpson was an experienced priest and IME director at the time, while Mr Firth was vicar of St Cuthbert’s, Darlington (which is incidentally, the church where my ancestors were married and baptised in the 18th century).

Mr Firth’s memory does seem to be a little unreliable.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Janet Fife
18 days ago

Not long ago Matthew Firth tried to worm his way into a private Facebook group, whose raison d’être he disagrees with, by giving evasive answers to the membership questions. So it would not surprise me at all to discover that he was being creative with the truth.

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  Janet Fife
18 days ago

That Matthew Firth now belongs to the same church as Calvin Robinson should tell us something of his political outlook.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Matthew Tomlinson
18 days ago

I understand that Calvin Robinson has become a Nordic Catholic.

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  T Pott
18 days ago

He was ordained in the ‘Free Church of England’ wasn’t he? Has he formed his very own denomination now?

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Matthew Tomlinson
17 days ago

As far as I can make out the Nordic Catholic Church split from the (national and Lutheran) Church of Norway over women priests and have joined with the Polish National Catholic Church of the United States who split from the Union of Utrecht Old Catholic churches over the same issue and also same sex marriage. The Polish National Catholic Church of the United States and the Nordic Catholic Church together form the Union of Scranton. I think he was ordained Deacon in the Free Church of England and became a priest in the Nordic Catholic Church. A veritable smorgasbord of… Read more »

David James
David James
Reply to  T Pott
16 days ago

Everyone is out of step except my Johnnie

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  T Pott
13 days ago

Yes! and Prior to his Ordination he had a haircut! Gone was the great Mop of Hair to be replaced by something looking like a Pre-Vatican 2 Clerical Tonsure (not the Medieval Tonsure worn by Priests and Monks, but a Crew Cut kind of Tonsure). I saw Photos of this on the site, which had photos of his ordination where he wore full Eucharistic Vestments, and one of these photos showed him prostrating himself across the floor prior to the Prayer of Ordination. At his Free Church Diaconal Ordination he only wore Cassock, Surplice, Hood and Staff. I certainly do… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  T Pott
18 days ago

Does that mean he’ll be preaching to even fewer people than he did on GB News? I hope so.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  T Pott
18 days ago

I presume the Free CofE wouldn’t ordain him priest, or did he just have a falling out over something else? Denomination shopping until you get the orders you think you deserve is unseemly and smacks if a desire to put oneself forward rather ghan serve.

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
Reply to  Janet Fife
17 days ago

Not knowing anything of Mr Firth, I can see similarities to an American priest I once knew, a discontented mudslinger. Some 30 years ago, I was warden of a parish in the Diocese of Massachusetts, and was sued in that capacity (along with the Bishop and a host of other defendants) by the vicar of a neighbouring mission church, which some 30 years before that had been yoked to my parish. This vicar was an opponent of Bishop Barbara Harris and numerous trends in the diocese, but was dismissed as vicar of the mission when he tried to divert a… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Jim Pratt
16 days ago

I suppose there have always been a few characters like that around. The C of E has had a few.

Kristy Pattimore
Kristy Pattimore
Reply to  Janet Fife
15 days ago

Actually Rick was his Archdeacon at the time! But he was also his associate minister helping to join two churches together, hence the comment. Tricky situation, but still ludicrously inappropriate to call him a junior colleague!

David Lamming
David Lamming
18 days ago

This weasel-worded apology was issued on 11 April by the Daily Mail Online , which had also, in effect, accused the CofE of complicity in the chemical attack by Abdul Ezedi: “An article published on April 7 mistakenly claimed that the Clapham chemical attacker Abdul Ezedi had been supported by the Church of England, and that this enabled him to ‘beat the system’. We accept that Mr Ezedi is not known to have had any connections with the Church of England and apologise for the error” ‘mistakenly’? – or negligently, since it served the paper’s stance of blaming a ‘lefty’ CofE?… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  David Lamming
17 days ago

I seem to remember that Sky News had a big spread about Ezedi at the time when he was missing as he had undertaken an Alpha course run by the Baptists in Jarrow and was then baptised into their church . But presumably the finer points of different denominations is more than an erudite newspaper like the Mail can get its head around. There also seemed little doubt from the Sky report that his conversion was at least one of the reasons for his appeal being upheld. Similarly does the Mail’s logic mean that no refugee can ever be accepted… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
17 days ago

Ouch! Those last 7 words… and when it comes to cynicism, let the government throw the first stone…

So many shattered lives, and family tragedies… in an election week when people are being rounded up and locked in detention centres… let alone baptism, it’s sanctuary some people need.

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Susannah Clark
17 days ago

Alas not only has the government thrown it, but is circulating videos of themselves doing it…
Maybe the C of E hierarchy should issue a protest- not in our name ??

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
17 days ago

Our system is showing its true colours now, I’m afraid. And, rather like their predecessors of some 90 years ago, their employees will be invoking the Nurnburg defence before very long. History, I’m ashamed to say, is repeating itself.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  John Davies
16 days ago

Perhaps its a gleam of hope – speaking as a retired civil servant I was glad to see the First Division Association are challenging this law in the courts, regarding their legality under international law (to which we are signatories) if they obey the government’s policy. Obeying the orders of a superior officer was rejected as a defence at Nurnburg in 1946, and someone, thankfully, is aware of the implications now. As an aside, sadly, I think we’ll soon see that the ‘body of Christ’ is as divided over this as it is anything else. Talking with a fellow believer… Read more »

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
14 days ago

Just a small correction if I may. Baptists don’t ‘baptise people into their church’, Baptism is a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ, a sign of forgiveness of sins, death to the old life and resurrection to a new life in the Spirit.

Membership of a Baptist church is a separate decision/process and involves an formal interview and vote by its members. It’s seems unlikely that Ezedi was admitted as a church member judged by the fact he was normally accompanied to church as a safeguarding measure.

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
14 days ago

Thanks for the clarification. The Sky News article is accompanied by a photo which purports to show Ezedi being baptised.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  David Lamming
17 days ago

You can be reasonably certain, being the Daily Wail, that it was not a mistake, and the perpetrator probably patted on the back.

Thankfully I’ve never heard of the ‘Free Church of England’ – the title itself a contradiction in terms – before.

Michael
Michael
Reply to  John Davies
16 days ago

However the Free Church of England has a long history having been founded in the 1840s.An episcopal Church whose orders derive from and are recognised by the Church of England.it is a perfectly respectable and orthodox Christian denomination.Best no an Anglo Catholic,it’s not exactly my cup of tea but there is no reason to mock it

Michael
Michael
Reply to  Michael
15 days ago

Sorry.Careless slip.’Being an Anglo -Catholic…’

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Michael
15 days ago

Not mocking it at all – I have genuinely never heard of it before. ‘Free Church’ to me means those non-conformist denominations such as the Baptists and Brethren which have a non-episcopal membership structure where the members ‘elect’ or ‘opt in’ to belong. The original comment sounded a bit tongue in cheek – as if someone had made the title up. As for the clerical gentleman concerned, I’ve seen his name appear beneath GBNews titles on youtube, but that is the sum total of my contact -it seemed iffy enough back then. Sounds like another turbulent priest from the comments… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  John Davies
13 days ago

I should have thought ‘free’ was reasonably clear — unrelated to the state.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Anglican Priest
12 days ago

In the UK, ‘Free Church’ has traditionally denoted churches free of any denominational ties, not just free of the Established Church. However, such Free Churches have often been part of looser associations such as the Evangelical Alliance; the Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches (which is conservative); or the (Calvinist) Westminster Fellowship. I’ve no idea if the latter still exists, but my father was a member for many years. The tiny Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion’s churches are also usually labelled Evangelical Free, but the Connexion is too small to have the usual denominational structures. It’s a relic of the 18th century,… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Janet Fife
12 days ago

According to the website of the Free Churches Group, it includes the Methodist Church, the United Reformed church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain amongst other denominations. In that sense, at least, Free Church is almost synonymous with Non-Conformist or Dissenter, comprising (in England) all Protestant denominations other than the Church of England.
https://www.freechurches.org.uk/directory

Last edited 12 days ago by T Pott
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  T Pott
11 days ago

That’s interesting. I wonder if it’s the more conservative free churches that insist (or at least insisted when I was part of them) that ‘free’ meant ‘free of denominational ties’?

Anglican in Exile
Anglican in Exile
15 days ago

Just out of interest, some questions of those much more knowledgeable about these things than I. Where do disaffected Clergy ordained in Holy Orders in the Church of England stand in regard to CDM? Have some clergy found a ‘get out of CDM free’ card by joining another ‘Anglican’ church, operating within this country, that is not under the authority of the Church of England? There seem to be an increasing number of clergy like this, who have left the CoE, but remain in active public ministry, presenting themselves as Anglican (but not CoE) clergy. As a retired priest my… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Anglican in Exile
14 days ago

I have, so far, been unable to locate the report of a CDM taken to tribunal after the priest had renounced his orders. My recollection is that the penalty was prohibition for life and an order for payment of a substantial sum, doubtless the costs of the CDM. I think this means that a priest remains fully subject to the discipline of the C of E in respect of any offence committed while in orders and unaffected by retirement or resignation. It follows (in my view) equally that transfer to another church or denomination will not nullify the C of… Read more »

Estuardo
Estuardo
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
13 days ago

There was a case involving an Ordinariate priest whose financial management had been lacklustre. It seemed peevish and pointless – they didn’t even ask for the money back.

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
13 days ago

If Mr Firth refused to baptise people is it any wonder that they didn’t attend a Church where they were clearly unwelcome?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  David Hawkins
12 days ago

Nowhere do we read he refuses to baptise people or does not welcome people to church.

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